5 Tips To Help You, Your Teens and Young Adults Cope with The Pandemic

Earlier today, I coached a family whose 16 year old had recently attempted suicide. His parents were concerned that he has been at home for the past one year, and amongst other things, had become depressed and anxious. He has been separated from his friends, his teammates and his girlfriend since starting online schooling. His grades are also beginning to suffer, and so is he.

They wanted tools to help them reconnect with their child.

As a pediatrician and speaker on youth suicide prevention, as a coach who works with parents of teens, but most importantly, as a mother of a 16 year old teenager of my own (and with the pandemic lingering on and with no end in sight for our current situation), I think this list might help us parents better manage our relationship with our teens and young adults (YA) at this time.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo recently twitted his concerns about the rising trend of suicide amongst teens. Sadly, this trend also affects our young adults who may or may not be in college as well. Suicide rate in their age range (10 to 34 years) is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death, and that trend seems to be compounded by the pandemic.

As someone who has struggled with suicidal ideations myself, and as an author of a book on teen suicide, I know the loneliness and hopelessness that can occur, and the despair and anguish that accompany them. While chatting with my youngest son tonight, we both came up with the following tips that might help you and your teen or young adult.

Acknowledge and Validate Their Feelings

One thing that I preach about all the time is the need to validate your teen or young adult’s feelings by acknowledging them and empathizing with them. Your teen needs to know that you understand from whence they come. Tell them you get how frustrating and disempowering they must be feeling without access to their friends and peers and all the activities they enjoy.

Share your own frustrations as well. Tell them exactly how you feel and let them see that while you don’t necessarily have all the answers, you do share their fears. However, end with a note of hope. Share your stories of struggles and how you navigated them in the past, listen to them as they share their own stories. Allow your kids to see the vulnerable side of you by sharing a challenging story from your past.

Trust me, children want to know that their parents are just like them in some ways. They do need to know that you have also struggled in life. That you don’t always have the answers. That helps them accept and deal with their own limitations as well, and helps them connect with you on a deeper and might I add, more realistic level.

One of the major issues I notice with some of the parents I coach is the tendency to want their children to think they are perfect. That is a dangerous precedent. Kids need to see their parents show them the full range of emotions that they can express. As an African, I know first hand how our parents almost never show any other emotions besides stoicism. #notgood.

Hang out with your children, enjoy the time with them.

Check-in With Them Frequently

If your teen or YA is currently enrolled in distance or remote learning, find ways to support them through it. We can all agree that these are unprecedented times. In my home, all three children are affected, and each child is dealing with it differently. Since I am home with my high schooler, I can only directly affect him, but I do ensure that I also have access to, and engage with his brothers often.

For his older brothers, we have twice weekly check-ins that have been instituted. Each one calls me on the telephone on a pre-selected day, usually on the weekend. And I in turn have a mental health check-in via text on Wednesdays. I send a simple text message asking how they are doing. These seemingly “little” habits have had the dual effect of keeping open connection lines and reassuring me, the mama bear.

As for my last-man-child (LMC), I frequently stick my head into his room, and ask how his day is going. I make sure he takes frequent breaks from his class computer (which he built himself for his 16th birthday) by walking around every 2 hours or so. We have regular discussions about relevant topics; school, his grades, his friends, who is dating who, football and basketball, his haircut, and even racism and politics…

Encourage Social/Physical Distancing and Wearing Masks

For this, frequent reminders and open-hearted (non-judgemental) discussions are critical. Talk about the fact that ‘their friends might be sick and not know it’ aka asymptomatic. Remind your young’un, that while they themselves might not “get sick”, there is a clear danger of bringing the virus home, and possibly getting you, their grandparents or other family members sick.

This is quite possibly the most challenging part of this entire pandemic for teens and YAs. Because they mostly feel they are invisible and can’t catch the disease, they often balk at the thought of wearing masks or socially distancing. They also fall prey to peer pressure if their friends do not also do the same.

I encouraged my LMC to have his friends come to visit last summer. This idea was a hit, and I watched him and his friends reunite one night outside our home. It was a brief but heart-warming (and much needed) drive-by socially distanced visit with their masks on. The smile on his young face the rest of that evening was all the payment this mama bird needed.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Pandemic or not, we must still champion healthy habits in our children. The usual suspects: adequate rest and sleep, healthy eating and drinking, frequent water breaks, exercise, etc. are all still a daily requirement. In my book “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, I state clearly that the one ingredient needed to make our kids do the right thing is us!

Share moments of laughter with your teens

We MUST exemplify any behavior we seek in our children. That means getting with our own program. I love to exercise and read. And my kids see me practicing that daily. My LMC and I bonded with Spanish lessons in the heart of the first lockdown. Those were special moments that we shared each night. I enjoyed the one-on-one, and he got to stay proficient with his spanish, win-win!

These days, we bond through cooking. He has always had a flare for the culinary department, so the lockdown gave him an opportunity to watch a lot of Master Chef and Master Chef-Junior. These TV shows helped him blossom into our very own Chef Boyardee 🙂 These days, he literally picks the recipe, shops for the ingredients and boom! Gourmet meal!

Use Technology to Your Advantage

This last one is simply inevitable in today’s world. I smile as I write this, because I am the world’s most notorious “hater” of technology. But, I am learning that it can be my friend if only I allow myself to find the good in it and learn to use it to my advantage.

While I understand that we don’t want our kids playing video games all day, or stuck to their phones day in and out. I ask for grace for them through these trying times. Allow them to use their phones or play their video games a little longer, as long as they complete their school work and house chores.

Over time, I have learned to give in to my boys and their gaming. It actually warms my heart anytime I pass by my LMC’s bedroom and hear his brothers’ voices on the computer playing with him…bonding with their sibling… or just hanging out. That is such a good feeling!

We also used the power of Zoom to celebrate my eldest son’s graduation from Stanford last year, attend my brother’s son’s christening, and check in with the extended family and long lost friends from time to time. Thank goodness for that, I truly can’t imagine how this pandemic would have been without video conferencing! It’s all good.

Go Forth and Make the Best of it!

In ending, as the pandemic rages on, we must approach it like any other challenge, with positive determination and confidence. We must not give in to the uncertainty, the anxiety, or the sense of helplessness and lack of control that we are all in no doubt experiencing individually and as a community. Let’s lean-in to the unknown, and sit with all the feels that come with that.

As parents, the time with our offspring is finite, so we should learn to give in a little, loosen up and try to enjoy them while we still can. My favorite question is: “Remember your teen years? What did you want the most from your parents? Now give that as a gift to your own children. Thank me later 🙂

At the end of the visit with my clients today, I reminded them that adolescence and teen years don’t last forever, but parenting does. So, I will ask you what I asked them as the visit drew to a close… What is the best thing that could happen to your relationship with your child from this pandemic? Write it down, and go for it!

If you are looking for a coach to help with your relationship with your child, let’s talk. http://www.calendly.com/drlulu. Al see you on the inside 😉

BB

If You Can Do It Today, Don’t Plan to Start Tomorrow!

Lessons from a life coach on procrastination

No truer words! Sadly, many of us are often twisted and tied down to that word…procrastination!

When I was in medical school, I remember my roommate taught me a Yoruba phrase that also happened to be the title of one of Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti‘s hit songs! If I remember correctly, the title was in Yoruba, and it went like this: “Oun t’awa she n’iyara, ejeka bere”, meaning, “let’s start what we have come into the room to do”

While Fela probably didn’t mean it in the sense of avoiding procrastination, I believe he meant for us, as his listeners to not waste time in getting what needs to be done, done. In essence, STOP procrastinating! If you need to do something today, start today, not tomorrow.

How many times have you had stuff that needs to be done and are not doing it? How many times have you found yourself at your desk, tapping your fingers and daydreaming? Or ruminating on thoughts about your “to-do” list, or simply scrolling through social media for the third time in 20 minutes?

What is the impact of putting things off in your life? When was the last time you stopped and took stock of that?

Procrastination is defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary thus: to put off intentionally and habitually something that has to be done. Meaning, you are aware of it, and you also know the full implication of not doing it, yet, you consciously choose not to do it.

Sometimes, repeated intentionality leads to habituality.

You procrastinate because factors such as anxiety or fear of failure outweigh your motivation and self-control.” ~ Solving Procrastination

Since signing up to become a licensed life coach, I have slowly started noticing my habits. Things I did once upon a time, that I continue to do, that have now become my way of doing. Some of them, better, (getting at least 7-hours of sleep daily), some not so much (putting off marketing my books, or finishing my 4th book).

After deep soul-searching and major self-coaching, I realized that the main reason I procrastinate is self-doubt, aka lack of self-belief, or simply put…FEAR! Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of negative feedback, all kinds of fear!

Case-in-point: For the past 2 years, I have been toying with the idea of shooting a documentary. It will be loosely based on my second book A Teen’s Life (available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles online). Everyone I have told my idea thinks it’s great. And I also believe it is…

I initially had a hard time finding a movie or documentary director. Then in the past few weeks, I found one who also writes. I shared my dream with him, and he LOVES IT! In fact, he believes so much in my idea that he has already started doing background research and treatment with my book as a guide.

Now, all of a sudden, I am not so sure anymore. I started giving him excuses like; “I am really busy right now”, “My plate is quite full at the moment”, “I don’t think I can take any more on my calendar”, “I have school”, “Can we hold off until I graduate?”, “I might not find subjects to share their stories”, etc. The list goes on.

I know deep inside that it can be done. I must admit that I thought it would take a longer time than he has suggested. Somehow, once I realized it might become a reality sooner than later, I freaked out. And am still freaking out. I now understand what the Bible story about Jesus, Peter and walking on water means (Matthew 14:22–36).

Even though the documentary is my dream, and has been so for nearly 2 years now, I must admit that I have little faith, and so I am doubting. I am afraid, afraid of the unknown. Afraid that I might succeed. Afraid that I might fail. Afraid. It’s a new venture for me. Nothing of its kind has ever been done before. I have no experience. I have nothing but my dream.

So, I want to procrastinate. I want to hold off until tomorrow, that which I can start today.

“What has this got to do with anything Dr. Lulu?” You ask. Well, since I started life coaching, I have realized that many of my clients, if not all of them also struggle with self-doubt. The lack of self-belief is very strong. I never knew how much of that is freely floating around.

It is so bad that when asked how committed they are to accomplishing their goals, most of them helplessly give me a number like 7–8/10. And when asked what would make it a full 10, they shake their heads and shrug their shoulders and look at me helplessly. And I see it clearly in their eyes, doubt. Self-doubt. Self-doubt and unbelief.

And so they procrastinate. They put off working on their goals. They procrastinate. They think they can’t achieve their goals.

I recently had a client who when asked, responded with “Because I am known to not complete my tasks”. Another said “Because I am known to procrastinate”, and yet another simply said “Because I don’t believe that I can do it”

This article on Psychology Today explains the concept of procrastination and why people do it so well. It begins by stating “…understanding why you procrastinate is crucial if you want to figure out how to stop doing it”.

Reasons given in the article for procrastinating include but are not limited to Abstract Goals, Indecisiveness, Overwhelm, Perfectionism, Anxiety, Fear of Failure, Lack of Motivation, Laziness, Low Capacity for Self Control, Distractibility, Impulsivity.

As I read through each item on their list. I kept hoping to not see myself in them. Alas, I saw myself in nearly 80% of them. In a sense I feel good because that makes me “human”, but then I feel sad because, I need to do something about mine, soon!

What about you? How do you set your goals, and how do you ensure they are achieved? Are you able to achieve them on your own? Who holds you accountable? Do you also procrastinate? How badly do you, if you do? What, if anything are you doing about it? Do you need a coach?

Even as I struggle with mine, I still hold space for my clients. I help them prioritize themselves and what they want. Prioritize their goals, and work towards them. Work through the self-doubt. Work through their unbelief. Work through the reasons they procrastinate. Ironically, I sometimes believe in them more than they do.

The good news is, the article also delves into what can be done about procrastination. It has a laundry list of action steps that essentially begins with self-awareness.

I shall continue to work on my procrastination. I know what I have to do. The question is; will I do it? Hmmm, only time will tell. And as for Fela, well, I plan on making him proud.

Dr. Lulu

Mindset and Motivational Life Coach For Physician Moms